Unpacking EU-West African migration governance: stakes, actors and colonial continuities
Leonie Jegen, University of Amsterdam
Franzisca Zanker, Arnold-Bergstraesser Institute
Since 2015 there has been a renewed push towards integrating West African states into European migration ‘management’. This panel discusses stakes, actors and colonial continuities in Eurafrican migration governance processes.
The unprecedented influx of refugees and other migrants to Europe in 2015 led to a renewed push towards integrating West African states into European migration ‘management’. Management of mobilities as such is not a novelty in Eurafrican relations, which have and continue to be shaped by their shared colonial past. Nevertheless, the recent increased relevance of migration for European policy makers resulted in a surge of funding for national policy development and institutions building, for example through the EU Partnership Framework on Migration. Numerous meetings, events and summits have been dedicated to the purpose of dealing with migration governance.
The already asymmetric partnership is however far from becoming more cooperative. Migration is a common development strategy for many individuals, communities and West African states and many national reforms are driven by external incentives. This also leads to migration becoming increasingly politicized and mobility undermined by initiatives targeted at regulating and restricting movement.
This panel seeks to unpack Eurafrican migration governance, by inviting proposals that look at stakes, actors and colonial continuities in the processes. The panel will pose a number of questions including how do West African governments formulate migration governance approaches in view of growing external influence in the field? Is migration governance used as a leverage to European counterparts? What is the role of international organizations like the UNHCR and IOM in political migration agendas? How are African governments, political communities and civil society actors resisting, subverting or coopting externalized migration agendas? And how can we embed current developments in a wider post-/neo-colonial perspective? This panel seeks contributions from all disciplines that seek consider West-African perspectives on migration governance.
In recent years, EU migration cooperation with West African countries has intensified. The key instrument for cooperation is the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, which has financed projects in the Sahel and Lake Chad region for EUR 318 230 000 under the theme “improved migration management”. The legality and effectiveness of the EU Trust Fund for Africa have been questioned by scholars, civil society and EU Institutions such as the European Parliament and the European Court of Auditors, as regard to compliance with the principle of transparency and democratic accountability. However, this has been the only instrument deployed so far in West Africa within the “European Migration Partnership Framework”.
By comparing migration cooperation with Western Africa states to cooperation with the Balkan region, this paper seeks to argue that EU law has little place in the realm of migration governance in West Africa, which is highly influenced by some EU Member States and not enough influenced by African States. Although soft law is a typical feature of global migration governance, where the only formalised international migration regime is refugee law, this is not true for European migration governance, which has gradually but steadily become formalised and “Europeanised” into law.
With Western Balkans neighbors, EU visa facilitation agreements have been linked to EU readmission agreements, those being the two main legal instruments deployed for migration cooperation. There is little place for soft law arrangements, and easing the tight visa regime de facto allows, through time, circular mobility of those third country nationals to the EU, and eventually leads to visa exemption. With African countries, no EU readmission agreements have been stipulated, with the exception of Cape Vert. Instead, the preferred way of cooperation is soft law arrangements, such as the so-called Migration Compacts coupled with “projects” funded under the EU Trust Fund for Africa.
This paper will therefore investigate and compare the striking differences between the strategies that the EU deploys in these two regions, and more precisely the way mobility rights of non-nationals to the EU territory are or are not at stake. What is the place for circular migration between West Africa and Europe? Are the instruments deployed at the European level effective in their objectives? Is the EU speaking with one voice in West Africa or are some EU Member States defending their interests while making use of European Institutions (and money) to achieve their proclaimed goals? Drawing from the results of the GLOBMIG project, not only the qualitative, but also the quantitative differences between those approaches will be presented.
While state sovereignty is increasingly challenged by the international legal system, and migration is raising as a truly global issue to be eventually regulated (e.g. the Global Compact on Migration), EU Member State governments are trying to limit mobility from African States with different para-legal means. A legal analysis of EU-West African cooperation on migration will be presented and the main challenges resulting in legal deadlock will be pointed out.
Eleonora Frasca is a PhD Candidate in European Immigration Law at UCLouvain in Belgium.
Valletta Summit on Migration has opened a stage for a number of “migration governance” initiatives between the EU and West Africa. While most of these initiatives have been led and implemented by traditional players in this field (EU member states known as key countries of destination, IOM, etc.), Valletta Summit has also encouraged such new actors as Lithuania to be part of this agenda. Lithuania, an EU member state with very limited previous interactions with West African countries as well as little if any political interests in this region, decided to not only contribute to the EU Trust Fund for Africa (symbolically), but also expand its development cooperation geography. As a result, among traditional country’s priority areas in the Eastern Neighborhood, since 2016 Lithuania has been funding small projects aimed at “addressing the root causes of illegal migration” in West Africa. Though clear understanding of specific measures to be applied was definitely missing (and discourses developed by traditional actors were therefore unquestionably absorbed), there was an aspiration to contribute to the EU agenda.
This high level political context led to the birth of the “Digital Explorers” project - one of the EU-funded pilots on legal migration aiming to offer lawful pathways to persons wishing to migrate for work in Europe. Implemented by Lithuanian and Nigerian partners, Digital Explorers has provided a 1-year career advancement journey for young Nigerian ICT specialists to Lithuania for employment in local ICT companies and skills enhancement training. Consciously built on the principles of mutual collaboration and knowledge sharing between the two countries that have no historical relations, the project presents an opportunity to cooperate from a clean slate where actors identify opportunities that are relevant and beneficial for both sides. On the one side, Nigeria has interest in young people development as well as increasing its remittances flows (there is even a discourse around diversifying Nigerian economy through talent export). On another side, Lithuania is eager to internationalize and is also lacking ICT specialists for its growing digital economy. Digital Explorers projects aims to match those needs by providing growth opportunities for Nigerian ICT specialists that are employed in Lithuanian ICT companies.
At least these are the aspirations of the implementing organizations that still have to challenge and navigate various political agendas, frameworks and discourses shaped by traditional actors. However, critical self-reflections are part of the everyday journey of the project - can the promise of mutually beneficial partnership be delivered? (how) can the tensions between brain drain, brain gain and brain waste be mitigated? are we coopting external agendas or reinforcing existing inequalities? These and similar questions will lay the ground of this paper that will narrate the story of Digital Explorers from its beginning to the current realities. The paper will combine Nigerian as well as Lithuanian perspectives covered by Ventures Platform Foundation and AfriKo accordingly.
Mante Makauskaite and Eugenija Kovaliova are reflective practitioners runing AfriKo a Lithuania based research and consultancy centre and alumni of African Studies at the University of Copenhagen.
Adaeze Sokan, is Director of Design and Strategy at Ventures Platform Foundation, Nigeria and alumni of African Studies at the University of Copenhagen.
This paper critically examines attempts at regional integration in West Africa and how these attempts are both aided and frustrated by the externalised migration management interests of the European Union. We start by showing how African countries have increasingly sought to promote migration within the continent through various regional migration frameworks and the contiguous external influences of the European Union’s migration policies that are essentially designed to restrict movement from the African continent. We note that European policies and programmes in the form of ‘mobility partnerships’, ‘readmission agreements’, ‘voluntary assisted returns’ and the ‘EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa’ are all geared towards either dissuading African migrants from arriving in Europe in the first instance or returning those who manage to arrive in Europe, especially irregularly.
Drawing on several cases and examples, we argue that in their attempt to restrict movement to the European Union, EU migration policies towards Africa and other forms of interventions have further contributed to restricting migration within the African context, thereby serving to undermine the goal of free movement protocols that seek to promote intraregional mobility and socio-economic development in (West) Africa. We choose West Africa as a primary case study because this region has the most advanced free movement protocol which aims to allow ECOWAS citizens to benefit from opportunities in member countries, including access to coastal areas by landlocked member states, utilization of arable land by indigenous agriculturalists, employment of English and French language experts, and unrestricted access to natural resources by member states. This is envisaged to be achieved through removing barriers and obstacles to free movement and promoting intra-regional and regional integration.
Leander Kandilige is a lecturer at the Centre for Migration Studies, University of Ghana.
Thomas Yeboah is a research fellow at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, UK.
The discourse on increasing the returns of foreigners not having, or no longer having, the right to stay in their host countries strongly dominates within the European Union (and beyond). This was confirmed by the pledge to enforce more returns from Europe to the Gambia after the latter’s 2017 shift from autocracy to democracy made it allegedly safe for Gambian refugees to return. One way to encourage returns is through assisted voluntary return programs, realized by migration management operators and aiming at facilitating returnees’ sustainable reintegration in their communities of origin. With a largely renewed political set-up, Gambian institutions forged intense partnerships with the non-governmental actors implementing managed reintegration programs as well as with international entities wishing to play a role in The Gambia’s boasting migration governance machine. In this highly complex, politically charged and evolving system of relationships, host countries’ rhetoric and priorities seem omnipresent. As large demonstrations by citizens show, clearly disconnected from Gambians’ understandings of reasonable numbers of returns and sufficient reintegration measures. In this article, we argue that the concepts of “brokerage” and “translation” – which refer to the multidimensional processes of (mis)appropriation of global prescriptions by local actors – are particularly apt to increase knowledge of how the multifaceted (policy) objectives inherent to return governance are received, contested and implemented by various actors involved in assisted return programs for returnees from the whole of Europe to the Gambia. This article aims to elucidate the (return) migration management complex within The Gambia as a prominent country of emigration and targeted country of return. Concretely, we first present a detailed mapping of the migration management architecture in The Gambia and describe the role of the different actors at the national and local level. Based on interviews with NGOs staff, governmental actors and community leaders, we subsequently explore their orientations towards external and internal migration management objectives, and the way this translates into support measures for returning Gambians. This allows investigating if and how bottom-up challenges to the globally dictated paradigm of sustainable reintegration emerge from actors and practices implementing assisted return.
Rossella Marino is a PhD Fellow attached to the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy of Ghent University and UNU-CRIS.
Ine Lietaert works at UNU-CRIS (Brugge) as assistant professor in global governance and regional integration, she is also affiliated to the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at Ghent University.
Like African migrations, deportations take place largely within the African continent. Debates on deportations, however, have so far primarily focused on the Global North. This paper analyses the history and practices of deportations from a less Eurocentric and more African perspective. It builds on the core thesis that deportations from West, Central and North African countries in these regions in the form of (mass) deportations became a political instrument with the independence of many states. These "African" deportations thus served to confirm the new state sovereignty in the period of decolonization. From the mid-1980s on, they were supplemented by deportations from European countries, first from France, while in the last fifteen years the externalization measures of European migratory control on the African continent have spilled of an unprecedented new push of securing, detaining and forceful returning. Eventually, in the 2015-aftermath and the context of the Valetta Process, return has become the most important paradigm in cooperation with African states on the part of the EU and its member states within the framework of the European Partnership Programme. Mali is one of the ‘priority countries’ herein. At the same time, more humane and flexible ‘accompanied voluntary returns’, mostly in collaboration with the IOM and European development agencies, are preferred by all sides, thus linking deportations and development. In this paper, Mali serves as an example to examine this (new) state practice, its evolution and effects. The Malian state itself never carried out deportations; rather Malian citizens have been strongly affected by (inner-African) deportations since the 1960s. These forced and assisted returns interrupt the circularity of migrations that is so characteristic of the West Africa region. Meanwhile, the Malian State takes an ambivalent stance towards the management of expulsions, repatriations, and deportations vis-à-vis other African, European, and international actors. In Mali, controversies arose, among other things, about how to deal with deportees, for example with regard to their reintegration and the instrument of 'voluntary return'. In the 1990s, Malian civil society started to organize against the unwanted forms of forced return. At the same time, the state withdrew from reintegration measures, so that civil society became primarily responsible. In the context of the Valetta Process, this practice has changed and diversified again. Consequently, today Malian returnees are met with very particular social, economic, and institutional regimes.
This paper makes the theoretical case that deportations within the African continent are particularly constitutive of the post-colonial African nation-state and society, while deportations from the Global North remain, as a form of colonial heritage, especially symbolically significant. Eventually, externalization and deportations in particular represent a political and social field, which, on the one hand, reproduces global inequalities and colonial continuities, but, on the other hand, creates paths for the development of new forms of action at various levels of (West African) actors.
Susanne Schultz is a doctoral researcher at the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology.
Almamy Sylla is a PhD student at the Université des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines de Bamako.
In the context of international migration from African countries to Europe the EU widely applies the strategy of curbing irregular migration. EU efforts focus on combating the root causes of migration and flight and achieving African compliance on return and readmission. This approach ignores the interests of countries of origin. It also undermines what countries of origin do to deal with migration in their states. In West Africa, the regional organisation ECOWAS strongly promotes migration management, and introduced the 2008 ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration with guidelines for migration governance in the region. Ghana, as one of the first ECOWAS member states, adopted a National Migration Policy (NMP) in 2016. The country has a long migration history, has experienced different migration trends and is affected by various migration streams. As little is known about the country’s policy responses to migration management, this study investigates migration policy-making in Ghana. It specifically examines the case of the NMP for Ghana and aims at uncovering stakeholder involvement in the policy process as well as its determinants. Guided by an analytical framework derived from theoretical considerations of the advocacy coalition framework, the framework of institutions, actors and ideas and an extensive literature review, the study uses a qualitative approach. The results are based on 14 weeks of field research in Ghana in 2018 in which 40 experts were interviewed. Together with an analysis of a plethora of secondary data the study finds that interests in the policy and the resources stakeholders possess, which then form the basis for their power, mainly account for stakeholders’ involvement in the policy process leading to the NMP for Ghana. The research further reveals that the NMP does not primarily respond to a perceived problem related to migration in Ghana: the internal migration flows from deprived to less deprived areas. Rather it largely pursues the interests of the EU, who is the main financer of the policy, to foster migration control. The results of the study therefore suggest that in the case of Ghana’s NMP internal interests were outweighed by the external agenda of the EU in the policy formulation process.
Nadine Sigaldo is a PhD student at the Institute of Migration und Intercultural Studies (IMIS) and at the Institute of Social Sciences at Universität Osnabrück.
Since 2011 with the fall of Gaddafi's regime in Libya, previously considered the EU's "subcontractor" in the externalized management of its borders, Niger has emerged, in the European Union’s views, as the perfect candidate to replace Libya. After a huge diplomatic ballet in Niger, the Euro-African Summit in Valletta in 2015, has achieved reinforcing Niger's position as Europe's “new border-guard”. Thus, in continuation of this summit, Niger, as a "good student", has adopted a repressive and security approach in the management and control of migration flows through a law that criminalizes migration towards the North of the country. This change of approach on the migration issue has caused a deep transformation of the Nigerien national territory. Indeed, Niger’s government has adopted a method of controlling migration flows based on “vertical borders” that consists in scattering all throughout the country, from South to North, with checkpoints at all possible and strategic points of migrant passage (roads, water points, railway station, outskirts of towns, hamlets…). The concept of “vertical border” is a notion used by Central American migrants themselves, which evokes the increasing number of checkpoints along routes and traffic nodes, and a migratory situation associating emigration, immigration and transit. In Niger, this bordering process is implemented by certain international organizations, under the “indulging” glance of the Nigerien authorities, amongst which the OIM.
Since 2015, a rich scientific literature has been produced on the IOM's role in the governance of migration and its responsibility in the process of externalizing EU migration policies in Niger. But despite the growing interest of researchers on the migration stakeholders in Niger, there is no (or very little) scientific documentation on the IOM specific agency in the governance of Niger’s internal and external borders. Whilst, since the “crisis of 2015”, the IOM has been imaginative in supporting the Nigerien authorities in managing its borders. The country, in general, and the Agadez Region in particular, have thus become an "epicenter", in which various migrant control and border management mechanisms implemented by IOM are being experimented and developed. From the setting up of "Community Border Watch Committees", to full-scale simulations of “cross-border crises”, through the deployment of the “Migration Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS)” at border posts or the creation of “Mobile-border” posts, IOM is on all fronts.
I my proposed presentation, which will be based on field observations and documentary analyses on ongoing migration policies in Niger, I will discuss several questions raised by the complex role of IOM in the governance of Niger’s national borders. Through the projects and programs, that it implements in Niger to curb irregular migration, I will characterize its role in the ongoing bordering process in the light of the “migration crisis” of 2015, and analyze the consequence of such actors’ interventions on the state of Niger’s sovereignty since the latter, seems to be dispossessed of its modalities of border control and management in favor of international organizations such as the IOM.
Rhoumour Tchilouta is a Phd Student at PACTE/ Grenoble Alpes University.
African migration into the European Union is in the European policy and public debate framed as an invasion, increasingly so in the post-2015 discourse of a “refugee crisis”. A lot of migration scholarship (un)wittingly reproduces this imaginary of sovereignty as threatened by black and brown “illegal migrants”. Drawing on the critical analyses developed in the 1990s West African migration movements in France and Germany the paper situates this imaginary of sovereignty within the coloniality of the border regime, seen historically from West Africa and currently operating through the dynamics border internalisation-externalisation (Rigo 2007). These West African militants were an important but neglected inspiration for European critical migration studies while their living legacy continues in today’s West African movements in Europe. The paper relates their analyses to scholarly debates on the colonial genealogy of sovereignty and state monopolisation of mobility control (Grovogui 1996; Mongia 2018; Rigo 2007; Torpey 2000) and argues for their relevance to the critiques of post-2015 Euro-African mobility management. As expressed in the slogan “We are here because you destroy our countries” these movements questioned the territorial notion of sovereignty (as mobility control) by connecting it to the broader operations of the racial capitalist state and processes of primitive accumulation.
Aino Korvensyrjä is a doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.